Friends, family still struggling to understand Grahams’ deaths

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RANGELY — It was a little over a year ago, when John Allen and his friend Carlos Graham Sr., went hunting together.
It would be the last time.
Allen, a retired Rio Blanco County heavy equipment operator, decided that would be his final hunting trip.
“We hunted together for a lot of years, but last year I told him it was going to be my last,” Allen said. “I had a knee replacement in ’05, I think it was. And it was just too hard to get around.”
Little did he know, at the time, but Allen’s long-time friend would not be alive for another hunting season.
According to investigators, Graham shot and killed his wife, Lucille, Sept. 16 in their home west of Rangely and then turned the gun on himself.
Authorities speculate Lucille Graham’s declining health and the news the couple received the day before that their son Carlos Jr. had been arrested in Vernal, Utah, on sexual child abuse charges may have been what pushed Carlos Sr. over the edge.
Like so many others, Allen finds it hard to believe his friend would do such a thing.
“I was surprised,” said Allen, who was on vacation with his wife, Mickey, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when they received a call informing them of what had happened.
“He didn’t seem like that kind of guy,” John Allen said. “But when you’re under a lot of pressure, you do dumb things.”
John Allen knew his friend was having a difficult time dealing with his wife’s physical condition, but Carlos Graham Sr., or Charlie as his friends called him, didn’t say much about personal problems.
“When you talked to him about Lucille, everything was all right,” John Allen said. “He was just in denial. You knew it was hard on him, but he was quiet about personal things.”
Mickey Allen agreed.
“I can’t imagine Carlos asking for help, but if you ever needed help, he was right there,” she said. “I just think it would have never occurred to Carlos to ask for help.”
Lewis Graham, Carlos and Lucille’s other son, said his father had never confided in him about feeling desperate or overwhelmed.
“My dad was a pretty strong man,” Lewis Graham said. “He kept things inside.”
Lucille Graham was a heavy smoker, but doctors had yet to pinpoint exactly what was causing her health to deteriorate. She had been scheduled to see a specialist in Denver on Sept. 17, the day after the shootings.
In fact, when Lewis Graham first received word something had happened, he wondered if his parents had been involved in an accident.
“I was in Vernal, and when a friend told me to contact the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, I knew somebody had died,” Lewis Graham said. “I thought maybe Pop had crashed on the way to Denver.”
A visitation for the Grahams took place Sept. 25 at a funeral home in Vernal.
“It went real good,” Lewis Graham said. “I saw a lot of people I didn’t know, that mom and dad knew. They knew a lot of people. I was thankful for everybody that showed up.”
Lewis Graham said another service for his parents would be held next month at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington, N.M. There will be a rosary on Oct. 9, he said, followed by a mass and burial the next day.
“That (Farmington) is where my grandpa lives, my dad’s dad,” Lewis Graham said. “And my dad’s brothers and sisters live there.”
Lewis Graham was in Rangely last Sunday going through things in his parents’ house.
“That’s what we’re doing right now,” he said. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with everything yet.”
Asked how he was coping with the loss of his parents, Lewis Graham said, “Funny, everybody asks that question. I tell them I’m the only one left, so I’ll cry later.”
Lewis Graham’s brother, Carlos Jr., remains in jail in Vernal on $175,000 bond. He was arraigned Sept. 22, three days before the visitation service for his parents.
John and Mickey Allen were among those who attended last week’s visitation.
“There were quite a few people there,” John Allen said. “Mostly oilfield people.”
John Allen said he and Carlos Graham Sr. first met about 25 or 30 years ago at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
“We talked about it a lot,” John Allen said. “We kind of had our own meetings. It helps to talk about it … the good times and the bad times.”
There will be no more conversations with his friend Carlos Graham Sr. And there will be no more hunting trips together.
But, instead of thinking about never seeing his friend again, John Allen prefers to think of it in a different way, more like moving on.
“I guess it’s just like when somebody moves away,” he said.